Gujarat forest officials have begun vaccinating lions in the Gir sanctuary after the sudden death of around 23 lions in the past three weeks because of the deadly Canine Distemper Virus or CDV. Around 300 vials of the vaccine have been imported by forest officials from Atlanta in the United States, according to news agency PTI. While the Gujarat forest department had earlier blamed the deaths of the lions to infighting, CDV was found to have been the cause for most of the deaths.
However, wildlife experts have raised questions about the efficacy of the vaccination process for a number of reasons.
While the strain of the imported vaccine being used is similar to an East African strain of the virus, it has not yet been determined if Gir lions have been affected by the same strain of the virus.
Experts also say it is not wise to vaccinate the lions as they have wild immune systems which will be compromised by the vaccines.
Meanwhile, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani on Sunday said that the lions in Gir were safe and they would not be relocated.
Forest officials have said that the lions are being vaccinated under intensive veterinary care as per standard protocol, according to PTI.
According to a tweet by the Chief Conservator of Forest, Wildlife in Junagadh, the lions have been segregated and international experts are being consulted to handle the matter.
CDV is usually found in wild dogs, wolves and jackals. The virus' East African strain had wiped out 1000 lions or 30 per cent of the lions at the Serengeti ecosystem in Tanzania, Africa in the 1990s.
The Asiatic lions found in the Gir sanctuary are an endangered species.
"What are you doing on the issue of lions? It is very serious," the Supreme Court recently said as news of the lions' deaths emerged.
(With Inputs From PTI)